One of my first dumb things was when I first got my private pilot license. I took my mom and my brother up for a ride over Niagara Falls. Great view until we headed back. It was now getting dark outside fast, and I had about five minutes total of night flying experience. We were flying back to Akron airport, a little place way out in the country. I could have called approach control and pleaded for help, except I had no idea what the frequency for approach control was. So I’m looking and looking, trying to find this little runway. Suddenly it appears directly below me. Pure dumb luck. I landed nervously and now I had almost twenty minutes of total night time flying experience.
Later, I get a job flying a small two seat Cessna from Wichita to Hartford CT. It was brand new off the assembly line. As I cruised over the wheat fields of Kansas at only 1500’ I thought I’d try a loop. How hard could it be? I’d seen pilots do loops hundreds of times in the movies. So I pulled back on the control wheel and up & over I went. Farther and farther. Apparently you’re supposed to ease off as you go over the top inverted, a little detail I knew nothing about. As I got inverted that airplane just quit flying. Upside down stall, it starts falling towards the ground a scant 1500’ below me. I see a herd of cows in my windshield. Oh crap! I carefully pulled back on the wheel and manage to pull out of the dive, less than a hundred feet above those cows. I climbed back up, thinking “Never again! Never again!” Did it again six months later. Same result.
Finally, one day a pilot better than me showed me how to do wing-overs. Those are fun and rewarding when you know how to do them right. Years later we were flying to home base in a KingAir 200 and I said to my copilot, “Hey, want to do a wing-over?” Well we did one and let me tell you, the KingAir 200 HATES doing wing-overs. Never had I felt an airplane so angry in my life.
I have landed on short, snow-covered runways with a strong tailwind, flown into weather I had no business being in, flown so tired I was actually halucinating. After each of these dumb things I learned a simple yet valuable lesson: Don’t do that again, dumbass. Don’t taxi too close to a chain link fence (that was a bad thing). Don’t taxi out without verifying your fuel load (at least I caught it before I took off). Don’t ever let the bad copilot fly when the airline CEO or FAA is onboard. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. There are a lot of lessons in flying. Some get people killed, some just serve to educate. I haven’t killed myself yet so I guess I’m still in the educational part. I’m older and wiser now and hope to have seen my last dumb mistake. Ha! Yeah, right.... some day a dumb mistake will say to me “Time to retire, dumbass.”